Applied animal behaviour science: Past, present and future prospects

Alistair B. Lawrence*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


The field of applied animal behaviour science has seen significant changes since David Wood-Gush and others began to study the behaviour of domesticated animals in the 1950s. This paper looks at these changes in order to provide a perspective on where the science has come from and where it might be going. Applied behaviour science for much of the Wood-Gush era was primarily interested in the study of the biology of domestic animal behaviour rather than directly in animal welfare. The post-Wood-Gush era has been characterised by an increasing global concern for animal welfare. This has had widespread socio-political effects including a marked shift in funding priorities towards support for research on animal welfare issues. Consequently research output on animal welfare is currently on a steep incline, but there is evidence from literature searches that the contribution of applied animal behaviour science to this output maybe declining probably reflecting in part the wider suite of disciplines (including socio-economics) now contributing to welfare research. Despite the likelihood that there will continue to be demand for research on animal welfare, applied behaviour science should not be complacent over its future. One issue highlighted in this paper is the risk that the focus on applied welfare issues may limit the strategic development of applied behaviour science. This could be particularly detrimental where there is a need to address complex issues such as the development of approaches to assessment of subjective states in animals. It is proposed that International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE) could help counter these influences by developing a strategic plan for the future of applied behavioural science, and the developments within the science that are required to meet future demands. Examples taken from this paper would be to raise awareness of the potential benefits in integrating the different biological approaches to welfare research, and the need for theoretical and strategic research including a wider use of quantitative modelling. In addition there is a growing need for approaches that link animal welfare with other societal issues in order to better understand the trade-offs between welfare and other concerns. Such a strategy would help focus the applied behaviour science community on meeting future challenges and should help sustain the legacy of David Wood-Gush and the other early pioneers in applied behaviour science into the future. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2008


  • David Wood-Gush
  • Applied animal behaviour science
  • Animal welfare
  • Future strategy


Dive into the research topics of 'Applied animal behaviour science: Past, present and future prospects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this